HC Deb 15 April 1890 vol 343 cc561-81

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Reports of the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means may he entered upon at any hour, though opposed, and the Proceedings thereon shall not he interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the Sittings of the House, except of Standing Order No. 5."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)

(4.8.) MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)

I rise to a point of order as to the form in which this Motion is made. When a similar Motion was made by the President of the Board of Trade, in the absence of the First Lord of the Treasury, last year, there were some words at the end of the Motion which have now been dropped out. Those words were—"But after such proceedings are disposed of no opposed business shall be taken." I wish to ask whether, if the Resolution is passed in its present shape, it would be possible to take any opposed business after the Reports of Supply and Ways and Means have been disposed of?

*(4.9.) MR. SPEAKER

It is quite true that the words quoted by the hon. Gentleman were in the Resolution of last year, but I am clearly of opinion that they are not necessary. The words of the Standing Order would come into operation, and the business of the Sitting would be dealt with according to the Rules applicable to measures taken after 12 o'clock.


Then, I gather from your ruling that last year something was passed which was not necessary?


I do not know that the words were unnecessary, but they were surplusage.

(4.10.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I would suggest an Amendment in the nature of a compromise. As the Resolution stands, the right hon. Gentleman could bring on Report of Supply and have discussions upon it at any time of the night. I would suggest that after the words, "The proceedings thereon shall not be interrupted," we should insert, "If entered upon before 12 o'clock." By stopping the discussion which might be before the House a few minutes before 12, we could proceed at once with the Reports of Supply and of Ways and Means.

Amendment proposed, after the words "That the," to insert the words "Proceedings on the."—(Mr. Labouchere)

Question, "That those words be there inserted."

*(4.12.) MR. W. H. SMITH

I do not think the proposal of the hon. Gentleman can be accepted. The hon. Gentleman proposes that we should enter upon the consideration of the Report of Supply any time before 12, and go on to any time after. I should prefer to adhere to the Rule adopted in successive Sessions. If the proposal of the hon. Gentleman were adopted, it might be necessary to ask the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees to apply the Closure; and it is possible that there might be two or three Divisions, with the result that we should waste half an hour or three-quarters of an hour and not arrive at Report of Supply. In these circumstances, I must ask the House to adopt the Rule which has been in force during the last two or three Sessions. I trust that the Motion of the hon. Gentleman will not be pressed, because it must be negatived, and that, again, would occupy the time of the House.

(4.15.) MR. J. MORLEY Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

I think it is a very questionable kind of enjoyment which the right hon. Gentleman is good enough to give the House the facility of acquiring. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Motion has frequently been made in previous Sessions, but I doubt very much whether the right hon. Gentleman can show a precedent for making a, Motion of this kind so early in the Session. Nothing has happened in the present Session which renders this exceptional haste on the part of the right hon. Gentleman reasonable or to be expected. There is evidence forthcoming of a kind which the right hon. Gentleman would be the last person to question the force of—that this Session the House has been exceptionally expeditious in the performance of its work, and that it has been performed in an exceptionally satisfactory way. [Mr. W. H. SMITH shook his head.] The right hon. Gentleman appears to question that statement; but the right hon. Gentleman will not question the authority of the Chairman of Ways and Means. My right hon. Friend told his constituents the other day that the progress of business in the present Session has been very great, and? that there has been a remarkable amount of work in Supply before Easter this year. Looking at the past my right hon. Friend thought that the business of Supply this Session will not occupy a larger amount of time than it ought to occupy, and that, so far, the House of Commons has discharged its business well. It is rather surprising, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman should have thought it necessary to make this Motion in view of the exceptionally satisfactory despatch of business by the House. I do not think there is any great force in the objection of the right hon. Gentleman to the Amendment of my hon. Friend; but at least there ought to be a very clear and full understanding that on occasions when the right hon. Gentleman is asked to provide a full opportunity for discussing upon Report questions that have been inadequately dealt with in the proceedings in Committee, a large interpretation should be given to such an undertaking.

(4.20.) MR. BUCHANAN" (Edinburgh, W.)

I wish to point out that a similar Motion was brought forward last year, and that Morning Sittings immediately after Easter appear to be becoming a regular Parliamentary custom. I had expected, however, on the present occasion that the First Lord of the Treasury would have slid something in support of his proposal. No information has been given to the House as to the condition of Supply, or what obstacles have been met with in getting through Report of Supply as well as Supply itself. It is the common knowledge of the House that Supply is well advanced this Session. A similar Motion was pissed on April 30 last year, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated then that 34 Votes in Supply had been got in 12 Sittings. But this Session the Government have got 52 Votes in Supply in eight Sittings. On February 25, 16 Supplementary Votes were presented to the House, and on that day all the Votes were obtained, the Report of the 16 Votes being taken next day without discussion of any kind. On February 27 the two remaining Supplementary Votes wore taken, and the Report was obtained the next night after 12 o'clock without discussion. On March 17 the First Lord of the Admiralty got 10 Navy Votes in one Sitting—the expedition was supposed to be due to the fact that it was St. Patrick's Day, and that there were no Irish Members present—and the Report of 15 out of 16 of those Votes was got on Wednesday, March 19, after half-past 5 o'clock without any discussion. Practically, therefore. the Government are in a more favourable position as to Supply than they wore last year, or than they have been for several years.

*(4.23.) MR. J. S. GATHORNE-HARDY (Kent, Medway)

Hon. Members opposite seem to have forgotten that a few weeks ago the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir G. Trevelyan) brought forward a Motion dealing with the Sittings of the House, which was nearly carried, and the discussion on which showed that there was a disposition prevalent among hon. Members to put up with some sacrifices early in the Session in order to get away earlier in the autumn. It, therefore, seems to me to be absurd that hon. Gentlemen, having supported that Resolution, should now offer objections to this mild form of coercion which is sought to be put upon the House. The experience gained from this Motion in former years is, that it puts an end to obstruction on Report of Supply. If Report of Supply is brought forward before 12 o'clock it is generally talked out, while if it is brought on after midnight the general feeling of hon. Members has been that they wished to get home to bed, and hence those questions only have been discussed which needed discussion. I hope that the Government will stick to their guns, and I am sure they will be supported.

(4.25.) MR. SEXTON

I think the hon. Gentleman scarcely understands the point at issue. The Amendment of my hon. Friend really proposes that if the Report of Supply is taken before 12 o'clock it should not be talked out. A good deal has been said as to the progress made in Supply on St. Patrick's Day in the absence of the Irish Members. It is true that on that day a good many Irish Members were absent from the House; but it should be remembered that the Votes taken were English Votes, in which the sons of St. Patrick had no direct concern. Therefore, the benign influence of St. Patrick is a myth, and the Prime Minister was quite in error in attributing the progress made to the absence of the Irish Members. The First Lord of the Treasury has made out no case for his Motion. He referred to the proceedings of the House in the last three years, but I fail to see what that has to do with the matter. I think the House has treated the Government exceedingly well. They have obtained a Vote on Account for a period unusually long; they have almost gone through Class 1, and they have made some progress in Class 5. I think my hon. Friend is entitled, in a case of this kind, to ask from the Government some guarantee that only urgent business will be taken after 12 o'clock. Supply is in a very forward condition, and it is not the case that the Government have been unduly embarrassed in regard to Report of Supply. I am not aware of any circumstances that have arisen this Session to entitle the Government to anticipate obstruction of Report of Supply. If Report of Supply happens at any time to be urgent, why should not the Government bring it forward, say at 11 o'clock? It is no reply to say that three Divisions would be taken. I do not believe that would be so; but, even if it were, three Divisions would not occupy all the time between 11 and 12 o'clock. If the Motion be carried the Government will be able to put down Report of Supply whenever they please; and inasmuch as other business, such as a Scotch Endowment debate, may be taken first, we may be called upon to discuss Votes on Report at 1 o'clock in the morning or later. There is a growing tendency in the House to defer discussions on Votes until the Report stage; and, that being so, I would ask is it fair or expedient to pass a Rule under which the Government will be able to take Report of Supply at such an hour as will render adequate debate impossible and prevent the communication of the substance of the debate to the public? I think my hon. Friend has made a reasonable proposal, and one which, if adopted, will tend to facilitate rather than obstruct Supply.

(4.33.) MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK (Whitehaven)

I wish to give the House the reasons why I intend to support the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Labouchere.) I do not think any Government ought to have power to bring on Report of Supply at any time it chooses. I understand that, after what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley), my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) is willing to give a guarantee that Report of Supply will not be brought on at too late an hour. I think if my right hon. Friend will say it shall not be brought on in general circumstances after half-past 12 the House will be quite satisfied. Members on this side of the House are just as much interested as Gentlemen opposite in having this matter properly discussed, and no Party feeling ought to enter into the matter at all. It seems to me that there is nothing so detrimental to public business as to have important questions discussed on Report of Supply at an hour when many Members cannot attend. I think the hon. Member for Northampton has approached the question in a reasonable spirit, and I hope my right hon. Friend will deal with it in a similar spirit. I believe that Gentlemen in all parts of the House have the greatest confidence in his conduct of public business, and if he will only give a guarantee that Report of Supply will not be brought on at an unreasonable hour I am sure the hon. Member for Northampton will withdraw his Amendment.

*(4.34.) MR. W. H. SMITH

I can only speak by permission of the House, but I hope I may be allowed to say a few words in answer to what has fallen from my right hon. Friend (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck). I have not the slightest hesitation in giving the House an assurance that Report of Supply will not be brought on at an unreasonable hour. My Motion has not been made with the intention of enabling us to take an unreasonable course. On the contrary, I think I have a right to appeal to what took place last Session in order to prove that we have no desire to act unreasonably. If ever a question of importance has been deferred until Report, an arrangement has been made which has been satisfactory to the House as a whole, although I admit it may not have pleased individual Members. I assure the House it will be my object, under such circumstances, in the future to make such an arrangement as will suit the general convenience of the House. My only desire is that business should not be obstructed, as it may be by a single Member under present circumstances. With this assurance, I hope the House will assent to the Motion.

(4.35.) Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

As I understand, the right hon. Gentleman has just given a guarantee, and I need not assure him that his word will be accepted at once. The right hon. Gentleman, however, has not replied to the request that he would favourably consider any suggestion from this side of the House in favour of the postponement of any particular matter of importance arising on Report. I hope the House understands perfectly well what we are asked by the right hon. Gentleman to do. We are asked to reverse all those reforms in the hours of the House carried four or five years ago in the expectation that the period of prolonged vigils, which were of such a torturing character in previous years, had been put an end to for ever. We find that is not the case, and two months after the commencement of the Session we are asked to go back to the old system of either all-night Sittings or half-night Sittings. I have had experience of all-night Sittings, and I do not wish to repeat it. The right hon. Gentleman, of course, has gone through similar experiences—in fact, we have gone through them together—and I congratulate him on the excellent health and spirits with which he has emerged from them. The hon. Gentleman who represents one of the Divisions of Kent said that in voting for the Motion his object was to shorten the Session and give us an opportunity for an early vacation—a thing; we all desire. Well, those who supported the Motion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow the other day can consistently support the Amendment of my hon. Friend to-day; for the result of that proposal of the leader of the House, if carried, will be to give us both longer Sittings and a longer Session. If I thought the proposal would have the effect of shortening the Session I should be found in the Lobby supporting it; but I am convinced that its effect will be not only to prolong our Sittings, but to prolong the Session. I am afraid, also, that its effect will be to lengthen our discussions in Supply, because if hon. Members find that they will have no adequate opportunity on Report of raising questions left in an unfinished state in Committee of Supply they will be tempted to prolong the discussions on that stage. Although. I have known many occasions on which Report of Supply was a matter which could be passed over with brief discussion, or no discussion at all, I have known other occasions on which, owing to fresh information having been received on certain subjects subsequent to the debate in Supply, long and important discussions have occurred. It was, for instance, on the Report stage of Supply that my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) succeeded in getting the Clangorey prisoners released from their unjust imprisonment; and I remember many other occasions on which debate on Report has brought about important results. Then, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury why he proposes this Resolution at this period of the Session? It may be that at a later period we shall find ourselves in the midst of a prolonged discussion on the Tithes Bill or the Irish Land Purchase Bill, and it would be time enough for the right hon. Gentleman to demand further facilities for the consideration of Government business when he finds himself in difficulties in regard to such measures. If he had made his Motion, say, a month hence, if the progress of business was so slow as to justify it, we, at any rate, should have raised no opposition to it.


Perhaps I may be allowed to say a word as to the Amendment before the Committee. If I understood the hon. Member for Northampton's interruption aright, he suggested to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that it would be quite sufficient for his purpose if the Division, on whatever subject might be before the House, were taken at 10 minutes to 12, so as to enable Report of Supply to come on soon after 12. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) thinks it would be reasonable to provide that half-past 12 should be the time after which Report of Supply should not be taken. I would point out that the Report of Supply is necessarily an Order of the Day, and the operation of this proposal will be confined to Mondays and Thursdays. If any kind of discussion is anticipated, it will only be necessary for an hon. Member to say "I object" when previous Orders are called on, and Report of Supply will then be reached at a reasonable time after 12. It is practically impossible that the Report of Supply can be postponed beyond a quarter-past 12. If Report be preceded by other Government Orders at the top of the Paper, the debate is interrupted at 12 o'clock, and hon. Members have only to say "I object" to the preceding Orders, and we roach Report, which comes next.


I should not think of objecting to these Bills in order to get to Report.


Well, others would. Speaking from experience, every one knows how easy it is to rush through the Orders in order that the Report of Supply may begin early. With reference to the point of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division, no doubt if the First Lord of the Treasury receives a strong, or even a considerable representation, that the report of a particular Vote is likely to occupy a considerable time, he will make special arrangements, and then the object of the Amendment will be met.


I have not the slightest hesitation in giving the assurance referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, and asked for by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool. I am only doing what has been the practice for many years past of all those who have held the position I now occupy. If there is any subject on which the House, or an important section of it, really feels that further debate is required, undoubtedly the leader of the House has always deemed it to be his duty to make pro- vision accordingly, and I shall certainly do so.

Question put, and negatived.

Main Question put.

(4.50.) The House divided:—Ayes 194; Noes 102.—(Div. List, No. 48.) Resolved, That the Reports of the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means may be entered upon at any hour, though, opposed, and the proceedings thereon shall not he interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the Sittings of the House, except of Standing Order No. 5.

*(5.3.) MR. W. H. SMITH

In moving the other Motion which stands in my name, I may perhaps be allowed to say that although it is the case that considerable progress has been made in Supply, the number of Votes obtained does not exceed the number voted last year at the same date. The progress made has not been so considerable as hon. Members suppose. The Vote on Account this year has been obtained at the same time as was that of last year, and unless some farther progress is made with Supply, the House will undoubtedly have reason to complain. Last year I asked the House for Tuesdays on the 10th of March, and for Fridays on the 30th of April.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That on and after Tuesday, April 22, unless the House otherwise order, the House do meet on Tuesday and Friday at 2 of the clock, and that the provisions of Standing Order No, 56 be extended to the morning sitting on those days."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)

(5.5.) MR. SEXTON

I noticed this morning in the Times newspaper, which has lately taken upon itself the function of director of the business of this House, the suggestion in a leading article that the proceedings on the Land Purchase Bill next week ought to be taken de die in diem. I understand that this Motion is made with the intention of providing Morning Sittings for the purpose of Supply. ["No, no!"] Then, I should desire some information as to what is intended to be done at the Morning Sittings. Do the Government intend, to take Supply or the Land Purchase Bill on Tuesday and Friday mornings?

*(5.6.) MR. W. H. SMITH

That question has not been considered by the Government. If the hon. Gentleman will ask a question on Thursday on the subject I shall be glad to reply.

(5.6.) MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

I think that last year the Morning Sittings on Tuesdays and Fridays were asked for solely for Supply. If such Sitting's are to be taken without reference to Supply, certainly I shall vote against that proposal. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that Standing Orders become of very little avail if at a certain period in each year the Minister in charge suspends them for the benefit of the Government. You might as well have said in your Standing Orders that they were only intended to apply up to Easter, and we should have understood you. The position of private Members is getting absolutely ridiculous. There have been only four occasions in the present Session on which private Members have had any nights at all. If the business of Parliament is to be only Government business, let it be so understood; but do not let it be used against private Members that they are responsible for a destructive policy only, and that they never introduce constructive legislation, when the Government put it out of their power to do so. I claim for private Members that their position should not be made a sham, and if the Government compel us much more than we do to discuss their Votes the blame rests on them, because they deprive private Members of the opportunities which the practice and procedure of Parliament were intended to afford.

(5.10.) MR. J. E. ELLIS

I understood the object of this Motion, as defined by the First Lord of the Treasury, was that one Sitting should betaken for the purpose of Supply, but, from the right hon. Gentleman's answer to the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) it is evident that the Government have not yet made up their minds as to what they will do with the times they are about to take—that, indeed, they have not considered what they are going to do with the mornings they ask for. That the First Lord should come down to the House and ask for the time of private Members without giving the slightest reason why the request should be complied with is most extraordinary. I, as a private Member, protest against the intolerable uncertainty in which we find ourselves. In consequence of the uncertainty as to the state of business, private Members are unable to make any engagement or to answer any letter in respect to any future appointment. I am one of those who think there is a great waste of time in the House. I consider that time is wasted in other ways than by speaking. I think that when the First Lord of the Treasury moves a Vote of this kind by a simple nod of the head and without a word of reasonable explanation why ho takes away the time of private Members, he conduces greatly to waste of time, and does not facilitate the progress of business. Then there is another fruitful source of waste of time, and that is, unwise persistence with business at unreasonable periods, and which the Government ought to know cannot pass. Several instances of this occurred last Session. The Tithes Bill was introduced on the 7th of June, and we all remember the confusion and chaos which prevailed in consequence, with the result that the House did not get up until the 30th August. The leader of the House, addressing his neighbours in Oxfordshire the other day, said that his title to hold his present position is owing to the fact that he is a man of business. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will so order the business of the House that the time of the House will not be wasted. I hope that private Members will not have their Friday nights interfered with, but that these will be secured to us for the discussion of questions of public importance. If the Motion before the House is carried I trust it will be taken as a pledge that the Government will do what it can to bring about a much earlier rising of the House than that which occurred last year.

*(5.18.) SIR R. FOWLER (London)

Allow me to remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that it was always the practice of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian to take Morning Sittings at this period of the year. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) will recollect that a great part of the Irish Church Bill, 20 years ago, was taken at Morning Sittings. I certainly think it is unreasonable on the part of hon. Gentlemen to object to the present proposal of the Government.

*(5.19). MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY (Londonderry)

We must press the First Lord of the Treasury for a distinct answer to the question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast. How can we say whether we are inclined to give up two days of the week unless we know what use is to be made of them? It seems to me most extraordinary that the Government should ask for Tuesday and Friday morning's and not have made up their minds as to what business they will take on those occasions. We wish to discuss the Irish Land Purchase Bill fairly, and at reasonable length. We certainly do not want it to be cut up int.) shreds and patches—one patch snipped off at one Morning Sitting and another patch at another Morning Sitting. Morning Sittings on Tuesdays and Fridays are usually taken for the business of Supply, and what we now want is an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that, except on the occasion of a real emergency, the Morning Sittings he asks for will be devoted to Supply, and to Supply alone. If the right hon. Gentleman will not give us such an assurance, I shall be bound to move, as an Amendment, to add after the words "two o'clock," the words "for the business of Supply."

*(5.22.) MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)

I suppose we private Members must give way- on this occasion, but I should like to point out that if anybody are the sufferers it is the private Members sitting on this side of the House. Hon. Gentlemen opposite can and do talk as much as they please, but we, who wish to see the business of the House carried on, have not much chance of doing so. As we have to give up our mornings on Tuesdays and Fridays, I think we may fairly ask that the Government should feel it their duty to make a House when we re-assemble on Tuesdays and Fridays at 9 o'clock.


I think that the private Members will be the gainers rather than the losers by the adoption of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for Derry says that Morning Sittings ought to be confined to Supply, but I do not understand the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman in that sense. In theory we have private Members' days on Tuesdays and Fridays, but in practice we have not. There are two important Bills before the House this Session—the Land Purchase Bill and the Tithes Bill. No sooner will those Bills get into Committee than the right hon. Gentleman will ask for facilities, and will take the whole of Tuesday as well as the whole of Friday, consequently private Members will be entirely shut out. If, however, we accept the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, he will not ask for further facilities, but will leave us in the enjoyment of the Tuesday and Friday evenings. [Mr. W. H. SMITH signified dissent.] What, have I been deceived by the right hon. Gentleman? Have I been induced to support the right hon. Gentleman under a delusion? I imagined this was to be a settlement of the whole question. I thought that during the rest of the Session, except perhaps in the last two weeks, we were to have Tuesday and Friday evenings. If the right hon. Gentleman says that this is only one bite at the cherry, and that he will take the whole of the Tuesdays and Fridays if he wants them, I do not see how we can vote with him. There must be a bargain on both sides.

*(5.26.) MR. W. H. SMITH

The hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. J. E. Ellis) made a complaint as to the management of the business. I would be exceedingly glad if the hon. Member could give us any assistance in arranging the proceedings of the House so that the course of business may be forecast with reasonable certainty. I would also be exceedingly grateful if the hon. Member would render the Government that assistance which he appears to think may be rendered by some one, whereby the time of the House may be saved. No doubt, if the time of the House were arranged on strictly business principles, a good deal more work might be done, but there is an ancient privilege of Members of the House which no Member of the Government has either the power or the desire to interfere with, namely, the liberty of speech of hon. Members. So long as that liberty is indulged in with the freedom and want of responsibility shown by some Members, I am afraid no Member of the House in my position can lay down any rule or make any proposal to the House which will entirely obviate the loss of time and unbusinesslike results which occasionally follow. It is not the inten- tion of the Government to proceed with the discussion of so important a measure as the Irish Land Purchase Bill in the patchwork fashion suggested by the hon. Member for Derry. In asking the House for Morning Sittings, the Government have before them the necessities of Supply. Last year and the year before, however, we declined to bind ourselves not to take any other business which it might be desirable to deal with, and we must take the same course now, although our principal object is to discuss Supply on the days we ask for. I should be only too glad if the House should consider the Bills before it in such a business like way as to make the de die in diem prosecution of any measure unnecessary, but if towards the end of the Session the same course should be followed as was pursued at an earlier period, when a debate in which no interest was taken was continued day after day, then the Government must ask for the facilities which were given last Session and have been given in the past. The object of the present Motion is in accordance with precedents Parliament has sanctioned, and the practice under it will be precisely similar to that adopted last Session.


The right hon. Gentleman has, after all, given the House no reason why we should take this unprecedented course in a Session when the progress of business has been extraordinarily satisfactory. It realty comes to this, as the hon. Member for Northampton has said, that we might just as well come to an understanding that the Standing Orders should apply only up to Easter, and that afterwards they should be abrogated. What the right hon. Gentleman has said as to the difficulty of making an exact division of business of course we all understand, but with business in the present advanced state that the right hon. Gentleman should make this extraordinary demand is a course against which I and those around me feel bound to protest in the strongest manner. I think we have a right to ask the right hon. Gentleman to make this one concession. He says he cannot assent to the proposal of the hon. Member for Derry that Supply only should be taken on Tuesdays and Fridays until the end of the Session, and, of course, we can understand why he should not agree to that; but the Government might meet the wish of the House—for I believe it is the wish of the greater part of the House—by consenting to make Supply the business on Tuesdays and Fridays until Whitsuntide. That, at all events, might be done, and would meet many objections. If you, contrary to precedent, take these Morning Sittings before Whitsuntide, I think, at least, you might give an undertaking that until Whitsuntide they shall be devoted to the business of Supply.

(5.37.) MR. G. A. CAVENDISH BENTINCK (Penryn and Falmouth)

I am sorry to trouble the House, but my right hon. Friend has not answered the appeal of my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington as to the Government making a House on Friday evenings. It is a question that has been before the right hon. Gentleman before. As my right hon. Friend knows, when Lord Palmerston was leader of this House, from the time he entered it at 4 o'clock he seldom left it until the House rose. Lord Beaconsfield, too, was in constant attendance and rarely went home to dinner. Now, 9 o'clock, as has been pointed out, is an extremely difficult time for Members to return, but not more so for Members of the Government. The Government have not more to do now than in times past, and they have more accommodation provided within these walls than previous Governments have had, and it is not too much to ask that they shall be in their places at 9 o'clock. It is upon record that predecessors of the right hon. Gentleman have admitted the moral obligation of Members of the Government to make a House at 9 o'clock, especially on Fridays. The Members of the Government, I believe, muster about 30, and I do not think that it is unreasonable to ask that some 15 or 20 of these should consider that to assist in making a House is part of their duty. They receive considerable salaries, and it is no great addition to their duties to sit on that Bench at 9 o'clock on Friday evenings. I hope the First Lord will favourably consider this suggestion. He must remember the opinion of his old leader, and how vexed the late Lord Beaconsfield used to be whenever the House was counted. I have myself received, and so no doubt has the right hon. Gentleman, reminders that it was necessary I should be in my place. No statesman ever sat in this House who more desired to respect the rights of private Members than the late Lord Beaconsfield, and I hope that spirit may still continue to animate his successors in the leadership of the HouS3.

*(5.40.) MR. W. H. SMITH

If I may be allowed to make a reply it must be to the effect that, so far as we can, we will assist in making a House on Friday. As for the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, we will do our best to secure a House for him, and I can say no more than that. But I do not know that if any private Member is unable to secure a quorum for the consideration of a Motion he desires to submit, it is the duty of the Government to make and keep a House. I would remind the House that twice during the Session the House has been counted out on Tuesdays, and we are really asking for time therefore that private Members do not greatly require. I am sorry that I am not able to give the undertaking asked for by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle. We may have to ask the House to provide from day to day for the ordinary Government business taken on Mondays and Thursdays. We shall proceed as in previous Sessions, and of this I do not think the House can complain, that, unless the House shall otherwise order, we shall sit at 2 o'clock on Tuesdays and Fridays, and we propose this to facilitate the progress of Supply. The House has the power to otherwise order, if it sees fit, in reference to any special measure. I wish again to say that we reserve to ourselves the right we have exercised in the past of dealing with financial business, and of dealing with any measures of urgency on Tuesdays and Fridays, in fact to forward the business of the Government in any way.


Have the Government so far made up their minds as to say whether Supply will be taken on Tuesday and Friday next week, and the Land Purchase Bill on Monday and Thursday?


I cannot make any engagement just now.

(5.43.) MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)

In consequence of the extremely unsatisfactory reply in reference to proceeding with important Irish business, I think it becomes necessary to move an Amendment to the Motion by adding after the words "two o'clock" the words "for the business of Supply." The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that it is a very serious inconvenience to Irish Members not to know what is intended to be done in regard to the Land Purchase Bill. The right hon. Gentleman will not give my hon. Friend the information he desires; but, I think, in view of the importance of the matter to us, the right hon. Gentleman might stretch a point and decide now. In view of the attitude taken up by the right hon. Gentleman I must insist on the Amendment if we have nothing definite as to the intention with regard to the Land Purchase Bill.

Amendment proposed, after the word "clock," to insert the words "for the business of Supply."—(Mr. W. Redmond.)

Question proposed, "That the words be there inserted."

*(5.45.) MR. W. H. SMITH

I can only repeat what I said in answer to the hon. Member for Derry, that we shall not proceed with the Second Reading of the Land Purchase Bill at a Morning-Sitting.


Then I take it as a definite pledge that the Bill will not be taken at a Morning Sitting?


The Second Reading debate will not be proceeded with during a Morning Sitting.


Then the debate will begin on Monday, and be resumed again on Thursday next week?


I must reserve the right to move that the Land Purchase Bill shall take precedence of all other business, if it should be necessary to come to an arrangement of that kind.


At what stage, and how soon?


That will be on Monday. I reserve the power to propose a Motion, if we think it necessary to do so; but I hope that the Government may come to some understanding with hon. Members as to the debate on the Land Bill, so as to render that unnecessary.


Well, it is not very plain. It is as yet uncertain whether the Second Reading debate will be taken next week or not.


It must be so until we arrive at an understanding as to the termination of the debate. I hope we shall come to an understanding and make an arrangement that will be generally satisfactory.

(5.47.) MR. SEXTON

I must submit that the right hon. Gentleman does not treat us with that consideration and candor we have a right to expect. He was first asked to confine Supply to Morning Sittings, and he replied that it was not fair to require him to enter into a binding engagement. He was then asked to give an engagement for the time between now and Whitsuntide, and ho refused to give an engagement to this limited extent. From his reply to my question we infer that he has not yet made up his mind as to proceeding day by day with the Land Purchase Bill. But the right hon. Gentleman, by various forms of language, endeavoured to convey that the operative motive of the Government in this Motion is to proceed with Supply. Well, if that is the object, why decline to give us an engagement that for next week Morning Sittings shall be used for Supply? Have some 80 Members of this House no right to be informed what day it is proposed to proceed with the Land Purchase Bill, to enable us to communicate with our Party as to attendance here to take part in a Division? Why, it is but the most ordinary view of the rights of Members that we should be informed now whether the debate opened on Monday is to be resumed on Thursday, or when. Only on such information can we make arrangements for attendance, and as a Party we may claim such facilities.

*(5.48.) MR. BARTLEY

I think we may claim to know something about the 22nd. I look at it from a private Member's point of view, having the first Motion on that day. It is reasonable we should know what is intended. I do not wish to do anything unfriendly to the Government, but I must press for a definite answer.

*(5.48.) MR. W. H. SMITH

If it is the desire of the House, I will say at once that the Morning Sitting next Tuesday shall be for Supply, but I trust by that time it may be possible to arrive at an understanding as to the course of the debate on the Land Purchase Bill.

(5.49.) MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)

I object very strongly to the Standing Orders being suspended in this fashion. The Rules are framed upon the principle that they shall apply to all ordinary circumstances; and no matter how often you make the exception when you take facilities for Government business, you proceed contrary to the principle and spirit of the Standing Orders, and on each occasion you do so especial reason is shown for it. Though there are precedents, still it is an exceptional thing to do, and not the slightest reason for it has been given in the present instance. Two important Bills only are mentioned or suggested as likely to be brought forward for our careful consideration. No hint is given of any other measure of importance being submitted to Parliament, and of these two one of them is of such an obnoxious and prejudicial a character that it is not unfair to call it a purely Party measure of a most objectionable character—I mean the Land Purchase Bill. I am confirmed in that conviction by the inarticulate interruptions from the other side. The other Bill deals with a matter of deep importance, upon which the Government last Session could not make up their minds, and their proposals met with such little favour that, on your ruling, Sir, they were forced to withdraw the malformation into which the Bill had grown. With these two Bills before us. we are called upon to grant special facilities for Supply. I earnestly hope that the House will divide against the Motion, unless we are assured that the House will rise the earlier because of it. What is the object of the Motion? Are there some other Bills to be introduced at the last moment, as was the case last year—little surprises of an objectionable character, of which we knew nothing until three weeks or a month before the time when the House was: expected to rise? If there is nothing of this sort intended why begin so unprecedentedly early in the Session to obtain extra facilities for Supply? We are establishing a precedent which, year by year, will be improved upon.

(5.51.) Mr. W. REDMOND

A pledge having been reluctantly given that next week the Land Bill shall not be taken on Tuesday, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put.

(5.52.) The House divided:—Ayes 191; Noes 109.—(Div. List, No. 49.)

Resolved, That on and after Tuesday, 22nd April, unless the House otherwise order, the House do meet on Tuesday and Friday at Two of the clock, and that the provisions of Standing Order No. 56 he extended to the Morning Sitting on those days.

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